1. Stop falling for manufactured debates and controversies.
Stop allowing one person's opinion to turn the internet into a three week long argument complete with ranting statuses, soapbox proclamations, open letters, comment trolls and snarky replies. For the love of all that is right and just in the world, stop reading comment sections. Stop taking everything so personally. Stop believing that you can change anyone else's opinion. Stop thinking that anyone else's beliefs have anything to do with you. Good, bad, or ugly....everyone needs to own their views. Also, understand that a lot of the talking heads on television get paid just to start fights.
2. Stop believing everyone cares about the manufactured stuff. Realize that all those manufactured debates and controversies are the luxury of the healthy, employed, entitled first world.
People who are dealing with a chronic or terminal illness, people dealing with oppression and judgment, people who can't find work, people who aren't sure where their next meal is coming from...I can promise you that most of them don't much care about whether Miley has a nip slip in her newest video or what some guy on a scripted reality show said. On top of that all, remember that the vast majority of the people in the world would love to deal with your first world problems. Perspective. It's everything.
3. Stop ignoring the real issues.
While everyone is so caught up in arguing about silly things, we as a society have become masters at ignoring the real issues in front of us. Cities have criminalized homelessness. Hospitals are closing emergency rooms in inner cities. Kids are starving. And that's just here. Around the world, there are all the fights we throw ourselves into for questionable reasons and the ones we turn a blind eye to just because we can. The media keeps us in the dark. We need to demand that someone turn on the damn lights. Then we need to open our eyes and see what is really happening. Makes you uncomfortable? Too bad. Reality has that effect on people.
4. Stop talking. Start listening.
In everything. In personal exchanges, with family members, at work, online. We get so caught up sometimes in our experience with the world that we lose the ability to see things from the perspective of the other person. Even if we can't understand where someone else is coming from, try. Accept that their experiences will never be the same as yours, their perspective will never be the same, and they will never see things with the same eyes you do. There's truth to that old adage about not judging someone until you walk in their shoes. Be still. Observe. Listen.
5. Stop plugging in.
Stop worrying so much about what the people online think, what they are doing, where they ate dinner, what their vacation pictures look like. Does any of that really matter in your life? Truth? No. Social media is a blessing and a curse. We all (myself included) need to value it for the good and ignore the rest. We need to remember that many people only put the things they want other people to see out there, that most people won't tell the whole story, that we're getting the saccharin version of everyone else's lives. There's always, always, always more to the story. At this point in my life, I have to wonder if all the gloriously happy people who act like everything is 24/7 awesome are delusional or just heavily medicated. Seriously. Look up from the screen, look at the people who are there. Check on them.
6. Stop making judgments based on hypotheticals.
If you make a habit of preaching to the world about things, about judging other people, about telling other people how to live their lives, stop. Take a long hard look in the mirror. Listen to the words that are coming out of your mouth. Realize that you really and truly have no clue what anyone else is facing in their lives, that any assumptions you are making about their choices are based on your limited information and until you've actually been there, you aren't there...and whatever you think you would do is purely hypothetical.
7. Stop worrying about the things that don't matter, start worrying about the things that do.
Ready for this one? If you're expending a ton of energy on something that seems like a waste of time, it probably is. Obsessing about something that isn't going to matter in ten years? Stop. Telling yourself that you'll work harder on that messy relationship tomorrow because it's too hard today? Stop. Telling yourself that you'll take the kids to the park tomorrow because you're tired today? Stop. Telling yourself that you'll make that phone call tomorrow because you are too busy with the things that don't really matter? Stop. Make the phone call instead. Life is short. Way shorter than you think it is. Do the stuff that matters, even if it's hard. Even if it sucks. The rest of it won't make a difference down the road.
8. Stop beating yourself up.
Carrying a few pounds more than you'd like, so you're refusing to take the picture? Stop that. Twenty years from now, I can promise you that you'll want that picture. Even if you don't, someone else will. Feeling like a terrible parent? Stop that. Chances are that if you're questioning whether you are screwing your kids up irreversibly, you aren't. Parenting is hard work. Much harder than you ever think it will be. If you occasionally think you're doing it wrong, you are probably doing it more right than you are giving yourself credit for. Focusing on the things you don't do well? Stop that too. Think about what you are kickass at and focus on that instead. Love what you love. Fly that freak flag. I'm rooting for you.
9. Stop over scheduling.
For serious. The best decision we made as a family this year was to take a break from all organized team sports in the fall. It was the first time in almost nine years that we weren't beholden to practice and game schedules. We played games, we built forts, we hung out at the park, we played dress up, we found new things we love. Plans are great. Not having them is pretty great too. Plan to do nothing sometimes. Do nothing together. Don't wait nine years to do it.
10. Stop using your energy on people who suck it out of you.
This world is filled with selfish narcissists who will use and abuse you as long as you let them. Stop. Severing ties with some people is excruciatingly hard, especially if you are like me and are well conditioned to tolerating it. You deserve better. You deserve to be surrounded by people who are supportive and real and don't just take and take and take. You deserve someone to lean on, someone you can trust. You are worth it. Don't ever let anyone else try and convince you otherwise.
This year is almost over. I'm glad to see it go. Let's kick next year's ass, shall we?
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